Tropical Heatwave expands to two days with more venues

More than 60 bands will perform over two days around Ybor City

mclear@bradenton.comMay 9, 2013 

The Heligoats from Washington state are on the bill at Tropical Heatwave. PUBLICITY PHOTO

Back in the early 1990s, the people at community radio station WMNF experimented with a two-day format for their biggest annual event, Tropical Heatwave.

"It did not work out that well for us," said WMNF program director Randy Wynne. "We were doing two full-scale Heatwaves, and what happened was that there were a ton of people there on Saturday. It was packed, but hardly anybody came Friday, and we lost money."

For this year's 32nd annual Tropical Heatwave in venues around Ybor City the two-day format is back but it's been tweaked.

"We're doing a smaller Friday with lower ticket prices," Wynne said. "We're figuring that with a two-day event more people will come and stay in Tampa, people from out of town."

This year's Heatwave will also employ new venues, including the Ritz Theatre and Roosevelt 2.0, within a few blocks of the Heatwave epicenter at the Cuban Club. The Cuban Club, which used to be the Heatwave's sole venue, has five performance areas. Nine other Ybor venues are part of this year's Heatwave.

There's even a new venue within the Cuban Club, a theater on the second floor. Wynne said WMNF officials considered having acoustic acts in the theater, but thought noise from acts playing above, below and outside the theater would interfere.

After some acoustic acts played in the theater with loud concerts outside, however, Wynne said officials realized it wouldn't be a problem.

"So now we can have acoustic acts in a sit-down format, so people can get off their feet for a while and relax a little then get back up and dance some more," Wynne said.

Venues don't matter without the bands, and this year's Tropical Heatwave has a typically impressive lineup of more than 60 acts in genres ranging from roots rock (Sarah Borges, Uproot Hootenanny), folk (Jess Klein, Passerine), Southern rock (Southern Hospitality, American Aquarium), indie pop (The Happiness Machine), blues (Ana Popovic, Sarasota Slim) and New Orleans jazz (the Stooges Brass Band).

Many acts don't fit comfortably into any one musical niche. At any time during Tropical Heatwave, fans will have a choice of several bands. Even within the Cuban Club, as many as five acts could be performing at any one time.

Highlights include the Heligoats, an acoustic-based band out of Washington state headed by Chris Otepka, who often plays solo under the Heligoats name. At Heatwave he'll perform with a bassist and drummer.

"I played at Heatwave with my previous band (Troubled Hubble) and it was great," Otepka said. "Ybor City's just so much fun. We were lucky to get onto WMNF's radar and stay there with this band."

The Heligoats, whom NPR's "All Songs Considered" call "brainy in the best way," play quirky, bouncy folk-pop that some people have compared to They Might Be Giants.

"I've heard that before," Otepka said, "But I've never really delved into their albums. There's a positive outlook, I think, that they have and that's what we try to do, too."

Details: 6 p.m. May 10-11, the Cuban Club, 2010 Avenida Republica de Cuba, Tampa, and nearby venues. Tickets: $40 advance, $50 at the gate for two days, $20 advance; $20 in advance and $30 at the gate Friday; $30 in advance, $40 at the gate Saturday. Information: 813-238-8001 or wmnf.org.

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